Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

When I was an anxious teenager my mother taught me that bravery had nothing to do with feeling fearless. Bravery was when you felt the fear, and did whatever it was anyway.

This lesson came when I was terrified of learning to drive. There was so much that could go wrong behind the wheel, and a part of me wanted to forgo driving altogether to avoid the possible consequences.

Mom made sure that I understood it was okay to be afraid. Fear was a rational response to the responsibilities of driving, but it did not need to be the final response. I could feel the fear, and get in the driver's seat anyway. That way, the fear did not steal my joy (and potential independence) from me.

23 years later, I can only barely remember the visceral fear I felt at becoming a driver. But I was reminded of Mom's lesson this week, now that the stakes are even higher than deciding whether or not to take her 1992 Honda Accord to Owings Mills Mall to meet my friends.


This past Saturday, a piece of shit anti-Semite murdered 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This domestic terrorist shouted "All Jews must die" as he mowed down men and women who had gathered together to worship and welcome an 8-day-old baby into Jewish life.

I use the word terrorist intentionally, even though it is not the term used by the media. I use the word terrorist because this pathetic asshole wants Jews to feel terrorized.

I. Refuse. To. Be. Terrorized.

Make no mistake, I am afraid. I'm afraid for my children, my community, my country, our future. But though I cannot control how I feel about the fact that anti-Semitic violence has caused the deaths of 11 menschen, I can control what I will do. And what I will do is continue to live my life.

I will attend synagogue to worship and thank Ha Shem for the blessings in my life.

I will hold my mealy-mouthed politicians accountable for refusing to denounce the home-grown hatred that has spilled blood--in Pittsburgh and all over the country.

I will mark the holidays and seasons that connect me to thousands of years of Jews both past and future.

I will be kind, compassionate, friendly, and open.

I will teach my sons the beauty and meaning in our world.

I will hold my head high and proudly proclaim my Judaism.

I will laugh and write and draw and love and be, despite the pathetic attempts to make me cower.

I am stronger, bigger, and more loving than my momentary feelings of fright--and I know that is the essence of their hatred. They hate what they cannot control.

But terrorists cannot control me. They cannot make me change my life, my love, my faith, my hope, my kindness, or my actions, and so I will continue to do it all anyway--which is the most liberating feeling in the world.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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